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Some Thoughts on Being Married to a Sighted Partner

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Rajesh Malik lives in Montreal, Quebec.

Being blind and functioning in a world dominated by visual cues, I always thought life would be easier with a sighted partner than with a mate who was blind.

I am quite used to dealing with day-to-day challenges that blindness brings, and so I thought that perhaps being married to someone with full vision would render those challenges somewhat easier to tackle, and would make child rearing easier as well. After almost five years of co-habitation with a sighted person, I am still of this opinion, but it is no exaggeration that having to live with someone with sight does require constant work.

About six years ago, I met and married my wife, Kamal, in India. We have two children together; one is a toddler son and the other an infant daughter of about seven months. Since the beginning of our married life, my blindness has not played a major role in our relationship, though both of us have had to adapt to each other, Kamal to my lack of vision and I to living full-time with a sighted person. Whenever an issue arises relating to my blindness, we are usually able to work out satisfactory solutions. At the same time, however, ongoing negotiations take place, and we require continuous work in a few areas.

When we first began our life together, Kamal was quite nervous about letting me handle such tasks as crossing busy streets by myself. She also wanted to read all of my documents to me, including the mail, work-related papers, etc. I gently explained to her that I had spent many years living alone and was quite capable of performing these tasks. In addition, I mentioned that I wanted to retain my independent living skills, and did not feel comfortable if someone was watching over me constantly. Thankfully, Kamal proved quite responsive to my explanations, and we did not have to revisit these problems again.

Some other issues have not proven to be so easy to resolve, however.

Having lived as a bachelor for well over a decade, I had established my habits and had set up an apartment the way I liked it. For example, my living room was arranged so that all the sofas and chairs were placed against the walls, and there was nothing in the centre of the room. The walls in the apartment were completely bare, as I had no interest in pictures, paintings, or any other items of decoration. When I got married, I knew many things would change and that I would have to make several concessions in the way my living quarters were setup. To start, I thought I would leave it up to Kamal to look after how she chose to decorate the house. If she liked what she did with it, I would have no problems as long as I could get around in the house without bumping into things.

When it came to arranging the furniture in the living room, this is where we had some disagreements. She wanted to have a table in the middle of the living room because, she argued, it looked nice. I pointed out that I would probably receive many bangs on the knees from the table in the centre of the room.

But her belief was that, if I could avoid collisions while travelling outside and in the other parts of the house, I should be able to do the same in the living room. I repeated my objections to her plans, emphasizing that I wanted to feel relaxed in my own house and did not always want to worry about going around the furniture. Eventually, she gave in, but I am not sure whether it was because she simply wanted the argument to end or whether she truly appreciated my position!

Actually, I constantly have to be cautious about big and small objects strewn in many areas of our home, not because of my wife but because of my 33-month-old son, who still does not know that his father is blind.

Our refrigerator is another source of mild consternation for me. I find items of interest in the fridge on a trial and error basis. When I lived alone,

I knew where everything was kept, and all I had to do was reach into the fridge. Now the story is entirely different. Smelling food items, feeling their textures, and shaking containers are some of my secret strategies for locating what I want. To tell you the truth, I have never asked Kamal to keep any kind of order in the fridge; rather, I have simply learned to live with chaos!

In other areas of our life together where blindness could matter, it does not. Kamal is very adaptable. She is an excellent sighted guide, does not mind reading for me, provided our children allow us the time. While looking for a home, we visited numerous houses, and I relied on Kamal to point out those details of which I could not gain direct access. We have travelled together by bus, plane and train to various parts of North America, and blindness has not been an issue, for the most part. Things might change, however, when she begins to drive a car, and I become her driving companion and offer her directions!

She has just obtained her drivers license, and we will probably buy a car in the near future.

From my standpoint, being married to a sighted mate is preferable, despite the challenges that the relationship requires one to meet. This is not to suggest that a meaningful and satisfactory relationship is not possible with a partner who is blind. Sharing one's life with a partner is a complicated issue, one requiring much thought and deliberation, as well as the right chemistry, regardless of one's level of vision. I have only tried to present a picture of what it has been like for me to live with a sighted partner.

Finally, you must be saying, But what about your wife? What is her experience of living with a blind person?Undoubtedly, this is an excellent question, but for that story, you will have to wait for a future edition of the Canadian Blind Monitor!